Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Me and Eno down by the schoolyard

Play it: Paul Simon Surprise
Play it: Brian Eno / Paul Simon - Parallel Works '72-'92
It may be that it's just too abstract for a lot of people. It may be that, as with Brian's work, it's meant to speak to a specific group of listeners, and that group may not number in the millions. They might number in the thousands. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't do it, it just means that you have to accept that you're going to be talking to a smaller group of people.
- Paul Simon, NY Times (05/07/2006)
The Surprise here is the odd pairing of Paul Simon with Brian Eno. Both were 70's icons of completely different worlds - Simon of the popular, Eno of the cult (see second playlist for a comparative parallel output from '72-'92.) So hearing Simon's familiar phrasings and rhthymic based lyrics over a bed of Eno textures you'd think would a surreal experience - and at first, it perhaps is - but it feels more natural then it really should. Like Graceland, when he paired up with musicians from South Africa, Simon's embrase of Eno's sonic architecture (Eno's credited on the album with 'Sonic Landscape by') feels seamless, and together they've crafted a fitting comeback album for Simon.

Standout songs include the sure to be classics like the post-9/11 opener "How Can You Live in the Northeast" and the surprisingly funky "Outrageous." Meanwhile, the very personal "Beautiful" speaks the joy of fatherhood in such a way I probably cannot be objective about it's qualities (disarming the critic/new father is so unfair!)

Eno in his instrumentation, manages to subtly include appearances by Bill Frisell on guitar and Herbie Hancock on keyboards, but it's hard to notice, and that's a compliment. Regardless of the sonic landscape, though, Surprise still sounds like Paul Simon - and the best Simon we've had since Graceland. While it's probably a song or two from being a masterpiece, it still a welcome return for Simon to his better songwriting days.

The second playlist above follows the parallel works of Eno and Simon (AMG) from '72 through '92. I stop at '92 because Simon's output became more sporadic after his marriage to Edie Brickell (while Eno production became almost ubiquitous thanks to his breakthrough work with U2 and Talking Heads.)

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3 comments:

drake leLane said...

Paul Simon - Surprise

1. How Can You Live In the Northeast
2. Everything About It Is A Love Song
3. Outrageous
4. Sure Don't Feel Like Love
5. Wartime Prayers
6. Beautiful
7. I Don't Believe
8. Another Galaxy
9. Once Upon A Time There Was An Ocean
10. That's Me

drake leLane said...

Brian Eno / Paul Simon - Parallel Works 72-92

1972
* "Ladytron" - Roxy Music
* "Me And Julio Down By The School Yard" - Paul Simon
1973
* "Editions Of You" - Roxy Music
* "Kodachrome" - Paul Simon
1974
* "Needles In The Camel's Eye" - Brian Eno
* "Still Crazy After All These Years" - Paul Simon
* "St. Elmo's Fire" - Brian Eno
1977
* "Speed Of Life" - David Bowie
* ""Heroes"" - David Bowie
1978
* "Sparrowfall 1" - Brian Eno
* "Artists Only" - Talking Heads
1979
* "Memories Can't Wait" - Talking Heads
* "Boys Keep Swinging" - David Bowie
1980
* "Late In The Evening" - Paul Simon
* "Once In A Lifetime" - Talking Heads
1981
* "Mrs. Robinson [Live Album Version]" - Simon & Garfunkel
* "Lizard Point" - Brian Eno
1984
* "The Late Great Johnny Ace (Remastered Album Version)" - Paul Simon
* "A Sort Of Homecoming" - U2
1986
* "You Can Call Me Al" - Paul Simon
1987
* "Where The Streets Have No Name" - U2
1990
* "The Obvious Child" - Paul Simon
1991
* "The Fly" - U2
* "The Boxer" - Paul Simon
1992
* "Fractal Zoom" - Brian Eno

MJAPA said...

I have been listening to a lot of Paul Simon today, I have a lot of love for him. I plan to buy his new record as soon as I can get my hands on it!